Native Plants for Your Maine Garden

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Unfortunately these environments are often overlooked in our developed landscapes, yet they provide a great opportunity to increase the diversity of woodland flora. Shading the Earth is Important Trees are key players in moderating the global climate. They reduce surface temperature by capturing the energy in sunlight and converting it to growth of biomass rather than heat. They capture rainwater and help it absorb into the soil, reducing flooding. Native trees are biodiversity magnets because they host a variety of fauna in their canopy, bark and roots. For these reasons, we should all look for opportunities to plant trees and create more shade in our urban, commercial, and suburban landscapes.

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In Maine we are part of the transition zone between the Eastern deciduous forest to the South and the boreal forest to the North. Canopy trees include deciduous oak, maple, birch, beech, bass, and ash, and coniferous evergreens of hemlock, spruce, fir and pines. It is in the ground layer of the woodland understory where the most botanical biodiversity resides.

Wildflowers, ferns, small shrubs, understory trees and juvenile canopy trees all make a rich tapestry that is beautiful as well as biologically dynamic. Many of these plants are easy to grow and will thrive in shady locations in our urban and suburban landscapes. Planting a Shady Area The forest serves as a model to help you design and choose plants for your shady site. Analyzing light levels, adding layers of vegetation, and creating woodland soils are the three key concepts that you must address on your site.

You can add natives to your existing plantings or create a purely native habitat garden. Either way, you will be supporting a diversity of pollinators and birds with these wildlife friendly natives of the woodland understory. Light Levels Thinking about how the plants of the forest have adapted to life in the shade will help you choose how to include them in your landscape. Plants that grow under deciduous trees receive more direct and indirect sunlight than plants growing on north facing slopes or under evergreen trees.

From the time they lose their leaves in the fall through mid to late spring when the trees leaf out, deciduous trees let light through to the forest floor. Many woodland wildflowers bloom in the spring to take advantage of this early season light. Other understory plants manage to capture enough light even in locations with no direct sunlight.

These are the plants that can tolerate the immediate north side of a building which is usually in complete shade. Farther out, the light levels can increase depending on the time of year. Adding small to medium sized deciduous trees in this zone will add dapple shade in which these woodland plants thrive and will prevent them from being scorched during the height of the summer sun. Add Multiple Layers of Vegetation Creating layers of vegetation with understory trees and large shrubs is an important element of shade planting.

These layers provide habitat for birds and pollinators, which in turn makes a much more visually interesting landscape than just planting the ground level. The photo at the top of this blog shows the layers of vegetation in the oak woodlands at the Rachel Carson Preserve in Wells, Maine. Mimicking Woodland Soils The nature of the woodland soil is another important component when creating a shaded habitat. Every year, the leaves of deciduous trees, shrubs and wildflowers die and return to the soil to decay and provide nutrients and insulation to the soil and its diversity of life e.

The flowers are an important nectar source for pollinating bees, and the fruits are a joy to humans and birds. Highbush blueberry prefers moist humus-rich soil, while lowbush blueberry will thrive in drier soils.

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These shrubs will thrive in sun to shade and in soil that is moist to dry, depending on the species. Different species range in height from 1 to 6 feet. Arrowwood Viburnum dentatum A wonderful shrub that belongs in every garden, large or small. In early summer, creamy white flower clusters cover the ends of this multibranched shrub, then mature into dark blue berries by late summer. The individual leaves are pleated and serrated, giving a distinctive texture to the garden. Arrowwood makes a great hedge or specimen. It grows in sun to part shade and moist to dry soil. Grows to feet.

Nannyberry Viburnum lentago A large, multistemmed shrub that creates a dramatic backdrop to a garden or nice specimen on its own. Creamy white flower clusters are set against glossy green foliage in early summer, followed by berries that attract many birds.

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The berries turn from yellow to orange to red to black as they ripen. Nannyberry is found on roadsides, thickets, and wetland edges. It grows in sun to part shade, in moist to dry soil. Northern bush honeysuckle Diervilla lonicera A small to medium-sized shrub that has shiny green foliage with coppery overtones.

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Small, delicate yellow flowers are produced over a long period in summer and are an important source of nectar for bumblebees. Honeysuckle thrives in difficult environments, such as along roadsides or sidewalk strips, in any light level. It is a plant of edge habitats that enjoys sun or shade and medium to dry soil. Reaches feet, depending on location and pruning. This shrub spreads by underground roots, so it needs restriction in a small garden.

It thrives in the most difficult locations and is tolerant of dry, infertile soil, salt spray, and abuse from the snow plow.

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Its only demand is bountiful sunshine. It is found in roadsides, meadows, and dry hedgerows and thrives in sun and dry soil. Grows feet, depending on location and pruning.

New Jersey Tea Ceanothus americanus A small mound of green textured foliage is covered with upright rounded white flower clusters in summer. The plant attracts a multitude of butterflies, bees, and birds. The foliage is an important food source for the spring azure butterfly and was used by colonists as a tea substitute during the revolutionary war. It is a fire-adapted species common in the prairie states that fixes its own nitrogen from the atmosphere with the aid of bacteria in its roots.

It is a rare species in the wild in Maine, but it is easily propagated and sold in discerning nurseries. Sun, dry soil. Grows feet. Swamp azalea Rhododendron viscosum The last northern azalea to bloom with fragrant white tubular flowers on an open, deciduous shrub. A rare species in the wild in Maine in moist to wet woodlands, it is more common farther south but is very easy to cultivate in a garden.

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Part to full shade, moist, soil high in leaf mold. Pagoda dogwood Swida alternifolia A large shrub or small tree with lovely tiers of horizontal foliage. Late spring flowers of creamy-white, flat-topped clusters ripen to dramatic blue berries on red stalks. Birds flock to the plant to devour the berries for late summer nourishment. Prefers part shade and medium moisture soil.

Grows into a foot single tree or multistemmed shrub. Purple flowering raspberry Rubus odoratus Showy 2-inch purple-pink flowers bloom on an attractive mid-summer blooming shrub. Large maple-shaped leaves stay a fresh green all season. The shrub forms a nice colony or hedge, so give it space for a lovely low-maintenance mass of foliage and blooms. Many insects pollinate the flowers; birds and people relish the fruits.

Native Plants for Your Maine Garden Native Plants for Your Maine Garden
Native Plants for Your Maine Garden Native Plants for Your Maine Garden
Native Plants for Your Maine Garden Native Plants for Your Maine Garden
Native Plants for Your Maine Garden Native Plants for Your Maine Garden
Native Plants for Your Maine Garden Native Plants for Your Maine Garden
Native Plants for Your Maine Garden Native Plants for Your Maine Garden
Native Plants for Your Maine Garden Native Plants for Your Maine Garden

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